The position of Quality in the overall company strategy isn’t always clear. Yes, most companies claim that quality is their number one priority. This makes sense, as you can only deliver real value if you provide quality products and services. However, how this strategy is translated into the operation isn’t always clear. More often than not, it isn’t incorporated in the organization at all. Last week we talked with a couple of CEOs about how they try to accomplish this and what actions they take. We briefly touch upon the highlights of these discussions.
Most companies we talked to have an internal quality department. The CEOs pointed out that in order to make quality deeply embedded in the organization, they need to change the role of the quality department. They want the quality department to support the operational departments with embedding quality within the processes. This way, it becomes part of the core processes and not a stand-alone thing. The CEOs also pointed out that it won’t be an easy transition, but it is crucial for the organization in order to execute the strategy. To accomplish this, they gave quality a seat at the table and involved it more in the strategic direction of the company.
Special Improvement Projects
Some of the organizations actually started some special projects to bring quality to the next level. One was a cross-department improvement board. Instead of keeping this main role with Quality, this particular organization made it a collaborative effort among different departments. It wasn’t always easy to coordinate, but it definitely changes the role of Quality within the organization. By bringing the knowledge of the departments together, they got a different point of view for these improvements, which led to some amazing solutions. They have learned a couple of points during this process. The first is trying to include most opinions. When an organization starts something like this, there will always be certain people eager to help out, which is great.
However, sometimes it makes a lot of sense to also hear people that might not be so vocal. It’s a good idea to change the configuration of the people that join the meetings or invite these people occasionally. The second point was about the follow-up. In the beginning, it is very important to keep momentum in these projects to make sure that everybody stays motivated. When momentum slows, certain people might tune out. And lastly was the support from upper management. It is very important that top management joins these meetings every now and then to support the project and show involvement.
Quality as a Department
A great approach these companies clearly pointed out was the way they positioned quality within the organization. Quality was more like an internal audit and improvement department instead of a department that has to deal with the certificates. This way, quality really focuses on improvement and helping the business get to the next level. Another great result is that the organization is almost constantly ready for audits.
Changing an organization into this paradigm isn’t easy and will take time, but in the end, it will be good for the company.